I spent over forty years on the cricket field. The game gave me greater happiness than any other activity of my life. Through it, I made many friends, and some of them have remained lifelong friends. Sadly, the friendships tended to grow rarer as I progressed to the higher levels of the game, perhaps because each man was increasingly concerned about looking out for himself. Competition does breed selfishness and self-centredness, doesn't it?
There were exceptions. In my book Third Man, I have mentioned my genuine friends, friends who selflessly took great trouble over mentoring me and nurturing me because they believed in my potential. They derived happiness from my success and worried for me when I met obstacles, encouraged me to fight my way against them.
In cricket, as in life, new friendships are a remote possibility once you cross a certain age. I have been lucky in that I have acquired friends after my forties, into my sixties, even. Harimohan Paruvu, the former Hyderabad pace bowler, has been one such. I met him first at the Chennai launch of his first book The Men Within: A Cricketing Tale, a novel woven around young cricketers. In fact, I had already read his novel before I met him, and been impressed with his seemingly effortless story-telling ability.
Hari is a an extremely tall, strapping man, probably in his fifties, plain speaking to a fault, but gentle and courteous, honest and generous all at once. A rare quality in him is his ability to accept people as they are--non-judgementally. Though I haven't met him too many times in the few years that I have known him, I have come to count him as one of my friends, and that is why I experienced mixed feelings when I heard that he had written a book titled 50 NOT OUT: Powerful Life Lessons from Cricket to Excel in our Lives. I have not been a great believer in this genre of literature, and find many of the parallels authors of such books draw between cricket and professional life quite artificial and forced. I was wondering if Hari had fallen into a trap in attempting such a venture. I still bought and read the book as a dutiful friend and senior.
To my pleasant surprise, I find 50 Not Out to be an exceptional book that uses sport to illustrate management challenges and how to meet them. I am sure the reason for the successful compilation of life lessons from on-field and off-field cricket experiences, is that the author has been a cricketer, an intelligent, resourceful one as well. And like other cricketers who have a second string to their bow, Hari combines his engineering education, his work experience in a bank, and the invaluable insights he gained rubbing shoulders with cricketers greater than he, as well as his peers, to arrive at a thoroughly useful road map for the journey that is life, no matter what your profession.
Hari and I recently interacted gainfully at two different book events, one of which related to both my book and his. At Hyderabad, my wife--a journalist, translator, musician, playwright and theatre director--and I had the pleasure of joining Hari at the Department of Dance, University of Hyderabad, where we engaged graduate students in meaningful conversation on art management, a course Hari teaches there. To my delight, I found that I could open any page of 50 NOT OUT at random, and find a resonance to the lives of our audience. That is when I realised that Hari Mohan Paruvu had produced a winner of a book. Well bowled, Hari!